The Death of A Young Attorney’s Career

Every so often, I peruse through the announcements of attorney disbarments, suspensions and other disciplinary actions. In most cases, the disbarred attorneys have been practicing for a long time, are over 50 years old and have been involved in trust account or fiduciary breach violations.

But one particular disbarment caught my eye – details will be changed. The person who I will call “Sandra” is in her early 30’s and was admitted to the bar less than five years ago. She got her undergrad degree from an expensive private school and her law degree from a low ranked school in the late 2000’s.

Not too long after graduation, Sandra associated herself with non-lawyers in setting up a loan modification mill. For almost one year, Sandra worked at the loan mod mill as the “in-house counsel” using her name and law license to represent clients before banks in order to renegotiate their mortgages or to delay foreclosures.

The owners of this racket did some really scary shit. They set up deeds taking a 10% interest in the loan mod client’s property, And in some cases engaged in bankruptcy fraud including FILING BANKRUPTCY WITHOUT THE CLIENT’S PERMISSION!

Sandra knew about these fraudulent practices but did nothing about it nor did she quit. And how much was Sandra paid for participating in this scam? $3400 per fucking month. I am guessing that Sandra owed around $150,000 after graduation. Under the standard repayment plan, at least half of her monthly income will go towards paying her student loans.

As with a number of these loan mod scams, the clients got nothing out of this. In fact, some were in worse trouble than before and faced criminal exposure for engaging in bankruptcy and mortgage fraud. Law enforcement stepped in to shut the mill down and filed a complaint against Sandra with the State Bar.

Unfortunately, Sandra made a bad situation even worse. When the State Bar was investigating Sandra’s role in the loan mod mill, she claimed that she was a victim of identity theft, did not sign any of the paperwork and disavowed any relationship with the scammers. But once Sandra was presented with paychecks and other evidence, she admitted to knowing about the scam and allowing the scammers to use her name and law license. Sandra then went apeshit arguing that victims are also at fault, there was no attorney-client relationship and that she had no duty to be honest with investigators because she was not under oath. Finally, Sandra claimed that she had severe mental issues caused by excessive drinking, marijuana and heroin use as well as depression and anxiety.

The State Bar had little sympathy for Sandra’s newly licensed status or her personal issues. It determined that Sandra’s involvement in the loan mod mill and dishonesty with investigators would make her a future danger to the public. DISBARRED!

I hear about young lawyers getting involved in these non-lawyer owned mills. It is not limited to loan modifications. There are mills for bankruptcies, immigration, debt negotiation – anything that involves “vulnerable” people. The young lawyers who do not know any better take these jobs thinking that it is no different than being an in-house counsel for a large company. Even those who know better have no other choice due to the lack of jobs and large student loan debt.

Most resign after a few months – sometimes after a few days. In addition to the blatant ethical violations, most of these places have horrible working conditions. The attorneys have to deal with large case files because the owners are too cheap to hire additional staff. The high turnover likely leads to low morale. Also, the lawyers get yelled at or threatened by the owners or the sales staff if they tell the clients the truth or they demand a refund.

The frustrating irony is that the non-lawyer owners of these mills are outside the disciplinary jurisdiction of the State Bar. They will disappear for a few months and then set up a new outfit and hire a new mark to do their dirty work.

As for Sandra, she is fucked. This is a sad end to a young lawyer’s career. I have no sympathy for Sandra because of her actions during the investigation. Had she come clean and cooperated, she could have avoided disbarment. She cannot practice law, has a worthless law degree which she still has to pay for, and will be completely unemployable except for the most menial tasks. I’m sure her future husband will see the disbarment order and then run for the hills. Who knows how her parents will react. What will become of her? Who knows. Maybe she will disappear into obscurity. Maybe she will find some spiritual awakening and seek a new purpose in life. Or maybe she won’t give a fuck anymore and start a mill of her own.

Do the faculty and deans of low ranked law schools know that a number of their graduates have to suffer in places like this? If they do, do they care? My guess is no.

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6 thoughts on “The Death of A Young Attorney’s Career

  1. Analyzing Actions

    “[She] will be completely unemployable except for the most menial tasks.”

    I have little sympathy for her. She at least did something to deserve this fate. Most of us are “completely unemployable except for the most menial tasks” for simply having gone to law school and worked our asses off to pass the bar. My first job out of law school was stuffing bags for $9.50 an hour and my second job was scanning documents and answering phones. So glad I got a law license and went $100,000 into debt to do that. Can’t wait to see what the third job will be – right now it is gearing up to be a receptionist for $10 an hour if I’m lucky. I guess you could say my attorney career died too, except it didn’t need any fraud in this case to die.

    When there is no difference in the actions of those who fail and those who succeed (ie: your legal career dies regardless of whether there is any fraud), is it any wonder that people like Sarah take such risks? Why not? If the result is going to be death of a career anyway (as it is in my case) why not get some bang for the buck? I used to be a complete square when it came to ethics, but if the end result is failure anyway, I hardly see what difference it makes if she got $3400 on her way downward. Would have been stupid if she hadn’t.

    As for Sarah, more power to ya, girl. You at least got paid for the legal work that you did, which puts you in much better shoes than most of us. I’m sure you’ll do just fine in your next career.

    Reply
  2. ltsilvio

    I worked for a bankruptcy mill. It is true the working conditions suck. The pay is low but you are handling a ridiculous amount of cases. A certain percentage of the clients seem shady but they paid you so you can’t drop them without management getting angry. There is a lot of pressure to meet sales goals which can seem contradictory to taking the role as the client’s advocate. Working on so many cases, with clients who were often irresponsible and/or shady, I was always worried about either making an honest mistake or having someone lie in a bar complaint against me. The firm did not give me insurance and I was also worried that I would get sued and then have to file my own bankruptcy. The firm did get sued (but for only around $2,000) by a client while I was there but thankfully I didn’t get listed as a defendant and ultimately the suit was lost because it was bogus.

    A common scenario was that a client would come in with a paystub that didn’t accurately reflect his or her income. Maybe he normally makes $1,400 every two weeks but the paystub he shows me is for $800. We would instruct them to bring a typical paystub but they often wouldn’t. I am guessing they would do this because when you go to the welfare office, at least in my state, they will assign benefits based off whatever paystub you brought in, so it was always to someone’s advantage to bring in the lowest one they could find. The problem with bankruptcy is that when we filed the petition, we had to file six months worth of paystubs. We could have required clients to bring in six months worth of paystubs at the first meeting to insure our advice was accurate but we didn’t because, for one, the clients were disorganized people who would have had a hard time assembling six months of paystubs, were too cheap to pay for copies, and would ultimately just go to a competitor that would require less upfront. Secondly, I was often meeting 13 new clients in a day, I didn’t have time to review six months of paystubs with every client and do math. So it was not unusual for me to tell the client that their income qualified for a chapter 7 and then later when they have paid the fee and I am writing up the petition, I would discover they can only file a chapter 13 and have to repay 100% of their debt as opposed to 0%. Since the firm had a no refunds policy, the clients would always be angry in this scenario.

    Still, the conduct described in this post seems especially bizarre. I would have never tried to take a percentage of a client’s property through some shady contract provision. That doesn’t even make sense as something worth doing if the client can’t afford his mortgage and is probably going to get foreclosed on. Also, why would the firm file a bankruptcy petition without the client’s consent? There is no advantage for them to do it. I mean, I guess they could pretend they managed to settle the client’s debt through means other than bankruptcy but how are they going to expect to make it through the debtor’s examination and wouldn’t it be obvious what happened when the client pulls a credit report after the fact? I guess maybe the management of the firm were just stupid criminals but then it seems surprising they had the foresight to get a licensed attorney on board and were able to sign up clients and complete and electronically file a bankruptcy petition. The disbarred attorney’s statements during the investigation and her admission to being a heroin abuser also are pretty out there.

    So yeah, mill jobs suck and they will put you at a greater risk of exposure to bar complaints versus a non-mill job. However, you would have to be a complete idiot to get caught up in what this woman was involved in.

    Reply
  3. Preston Bell

    This story defies belief. Was any dramatic license involved? Dope fiend AND corrupt attorney? Do “severe mental issues” result *from* “excessive drinking, marijuana and heroin use”? I think she might have had them before she shot up the smack . . .

    Reply
  4. John Bungsolaphagus

    I find the entire story to be believable. There might be some dramatic flair added but I totally believe the drug addiction part of the story and especially the mental illness aspect. Most attorneys, at best, are social retards. Many might have come into the shady business of law normal but after being exposed to the shady nature of law, the severe un or underemployment in law, working for psycho bosses…..many, sadly, become disturbed mentally.

    Law is a vile, evil, soul sucking, finance, career and life destroying piece of shit profession. And any sane, decent person should leave law now. I, the great lawland prophet began telling lemmings this as far back as 2006 on sites like ATL and JDU and was attacked for it. I predicted the implosion of the lawland billable hour scam and lawland in general and was DEAD ON CORRECT on damn near EVERY prediction and assertion that I have ever made regarding the so-called profession of law, law scams…I mean schools, the idiots who are drawn to attend law school and the defenders of the schools or ‘profession’.

    Once upon a time, I was approached by one of the loan mills and I smelled scam and I questioned the interviewers more than they questioned me and they did not like that. Of course I did not take the job.

    My little lemmings, know this: Once upon a time The Great One told your little lemming predecessors to avoid or leave law now and many returned my loving advice with stone throwing. Many of them, no doubt, wish that they would have followed my advice. Many wish that they would have heeded the iron of truth contained in my words. Now they suffer for life.

    Do not follow them down the most likely path of utter misery. Heed the words of the Great One.

    Stay away from law. If you are in it, leave law now! That is all. God bless!

    Reply

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